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Leaves, Acorns…. And a Squirrel.

10 Nov

Have I mentioned that I love fall? I do.  I love the leaves, the crisp air, apples, pumpkin pie… I think Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. I love Christmas too, and I can’t wait to start doing some fun Christmas cookies. But I have to tell you, I get a little cranky when I’m in the stores and they’re already playing Christmas music, and have all their Christmas stuff up as if Thanksgiving is already passed and gone. It’s not! It’s still 2 weeks away people!

Thanksgiving gets no respect.

I’m going to give Thanksgiving its due, by golly.

With leaves! And acorns! And a squirrel!

I’m proud of this squirrel. I’ve tried decorating him several times, and never could get him right. The best I could do before this was this guy:

Ha ha! He’s pretty rough!  I wanted something a little more stylized with clean lines. Mike told me I should ignore the tail shape and do my own thing.  That Mike, he’s (almost) always right!

Speaking of that…  I have a new toy.

It’s an airbrush!

This is kind of a funny story. Mike has been telling me for probably 2 years or more that we should get an airbrush and try airbrushing cookies.  I kept saying “I don’t know… not crazy about the idea.” Because when I thought of airbrushing on food, I thought of the kind of cakes that end up on Cake Wrecks.  And I actually hadn’t seen very many cookies done with the airbrush, but the ones I had seen were… um… aesthetically challenged. It was a tough sell for poor Mike.

And then I went to cookie camp! There was a demo there on airbrushing cookies, and I was instantly sold. I came home and said “Hey Mike! We need to get an airbrush!” And he said “yep.”

So I just got it recently, and I’m still not a pro– at all. But it’s fun! I am loving it, and I’m seeing the potential. I started with some fall leaves– because it’s fall, and leaves are pretty forgiving. And they’re colorful.

I made a few, and made them very basic, solid colors.

I used Meringue Powder Buttercream, and let them dry overnight. Notice I left a few of them white, with no outline. I wanted to see what I could do with only airbrush color.

Here’s what they looked like when they were done:

Yes that middle one has a big gouge out of it. I’m such a klutz!! But I had to leave it in the picture, because I wanted all of them in the same spot as they were in the pre-airbrushed picture, so you could see the comparison. So there you have it.

Anyway, I played with all kinds of colors– red, orange, green, yellow, brown. Even the plain white ones got nice and colorful. It actually made them very shiny, too! Which is kind of fun, if you’re looking for shine. And it dries very touch-able. Once the airbrush color dries on there, there is no danger of smudging the color. (Unless you drop something on the cookie. But that’s a whole different situation.)

Here they are all pretty on a plate.

I was going to pipe veins on them, but decided to try airbrushing the veins. It took some getting used to! It’s funny– it’s kind of like an Etch-a-Sketch, where you don’t really know where you’re aiming for a while. I would do the main vein down the center of the leaf, and then want to come back and have a vein coming off of that one, and I had no idea where to aim and how to match it up with the existing line! So you’ll see LOTS of mistakes up there in those cookies. But by the time I was done, I had a pretty good handle on it. Not perfect, but the learning curve isn’t huge.

After I did these, I thought they looked a little bit muddy. I wanted to try doing a batch where I glazed them one solid color, and only used one airbrush color on each. So I did these:

Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture of them before airbrushing, but it was pretty much the same as the first picture up there– minus the white ones. This  is what they looked like before piping some veins on them.

Here they are finished:

I can’t decide which ones I like better. I like the simplicity of these, but the multi-color ones are growing on me.

Here they are all together.

I like them all together like that.

So what do you think about airbrushing on cookies? Have you done it before? Do you want to see more? I will keep practicing and pass along what I learn. I’m going to be selling the airbrushes in my shop, and as soon as I get them, I’ll do a how-to post and maybe a video, and most likely a giveaway. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime…. Enjoy the fall!!

Easy Jack-o-Lanterns

28 Oct

Sometimes I think decorated cookies are so much a part of my kids’ lives that they are no longer impressed and/or interested in them. But every once in a while, they will surprise me. Like the other day when I was at the school volunteering and one of my sixth-grader’s classmates came up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Casey’s mom?” I said, “Yes, I am”, to which she replied “Oh, cool! Casey said you’re the best cookie decorator in the WORLD and you’re going to make cookies for the whole sixth grade for Halloween!”  Reaaaaallllly….

Sure enough, after checking with Casey, I find it is true that I have been volunteered to supply cookies to the 6th grade. So I needed a “cool” (6th grade cool) idea that would be easy and fast since I had a whole lot of ‘em to do. Very soon afterward, I saw this post by Sweet Sugarbelle. It was an answer to prayer. Ok, maybe not really. But it did save my bacon. Here’s what I made:

I did it a little bit differently than she did, so check out her post, too, and choose which way you want to do it. Her way is a little bit neater, but I think my way is a teensy bit faster, which is what I was aiming for for this project. Here’s how I did it.

First bake a ton of pumpkin cookies. I used the basic pumpkin cutter that comes in a lot of Wilton sets. This one happened to be from the Spooky Shapes set, but it is also in several other sets.

Next, I stenciled on some faces using the Jack-o-Lantern stencil from the Wilton Halloween Stencils. (This method would also be cool on plain circles or squares using some of the other stencil shapes.)

To stencil, I use an offset spatula, and squeeze a little frosting onto it.

I’m using Royal Icing here, which is unusual for me. But Meringue Powder Buttercream would also work.

Then anchor the stencil to the cookie using two fingers, and swipe the frosting-ed spatula over the stencil.

Then carefully lift off the stencil.

Ok, now if you want your stencils to look nice and perfect, you’ll want to wash off the stencil in between each use. But if you’re in a hurry, and it doesn’t really matter how they look, then by all means, continue on without washing.

Like so.

Ha ha… I actually had some friends come over when I was at this point. I just kept praying that they wouldn’t walk into my kitchen. You don’t exactly want anyone to see them when they look like this.

I did some in black and some in yellow, and they looked equally horrible.

It looks like they have milk mustaches. But the good news is, that it doesn’t matter in the least. Yay!

Next, outline in orange. I used a PME 1.5 for outlining. It’s my favorite outliner!

Actually on the bottom three, I forgot to switch my tip, and outlined with a 2. Then I remembered and switched it back to the 1.5 for the rest. Can you see the difference? The 1.5 is just a little more defined. I like it better.

After outlining, you’ll want to wait a bit and let your outline dry. But if you’re doing a ton of them like I was, by the time you get to the last one, your first ones will be ready to fill in.

Fill in with a larger tip. I used a #2, but a #3 would also work. This is a cool trick I learned from Callye–

Fill in every-other section and let it dry for about a half hour. (Or, like the outlining, if you have several dozen to do, by the time you get to the last ones the first ones will be ready.) Doing it this way helps SO MUCH with keeping definition in your design. Best tip EVER. Thanks Sugarbelle!

Then fill in the remaining sections.

Then add a stem.

I usually do green stems on my pumpkins, but I had seen some pumpkins done by Laura at A Dozen Eggs that had brown stems, and I loved it!  So I had to try that this year.

You could add some green vines at this point, but I was in simplify mode, so I left them off. It’s cute either way.

Cute, easy, and you don’t have to have any artistic ability to do these.  You could try this method with all kinds of stencils.  I’m definitely going to keep it in mind for Christmas cookies this year. Give it a try!

Halloween Ovals *GIVEAWAY CLOSED*

22 Oct

So I said was going to get another post up last Friday. Not the one that just passed yesterday— the one a full week before that.  Then I had sick kids, I was sick, and you combine that with time flying at break-neck speed, and here we are.  Life happens. Sorry about that.

But hey, let’s not look back. Let’s look forward! I have some Halloween ovals to show you! I really should have shown you the ovals first and then ended with the rectangles, because I really liked the rectangles better, which sorta makes this anti-climatic, but such is life.

So we have a set of oval cookie cutters.

Half are plain-edge, and half are crimped edge. I used the plain edge for these cookies.

First are some Halloween treat buckets.

Had a little bleeding on the handle on the one on the left, because I was lacking patience. If you don’t want bleeding, you must wait. Don’t put a dark color on a wet lighter color. Wait. Patience! (Yoda voice)

Next, some plain pumpkins.

These are easy. Just draw an oval in the center that is about three-quarters of the height of the pumpkin. Then add ridges heading outward and slightly upward. Does that make sense? Then add a stem and maybe a leaf. You can have pumpkins in all kinds of sizes. Who needs pumpkin cookie cutters?

Next, I tried just a bunch of candy.

It looks too stark to me. Maybe more candy?

Remember in my rectangle post, I made some monster faces? Frankenstein, Mummy, Dracula, and a Skull and Crossbones. Here are their oval counterparts:

Here are the rectangles and ovals together, just for comparison’s sake.

Definitely like the rectangles better, but the ovals are cute in their own way.

These next guys were my favorite, and they were also the most simple. I wanted something really easy for the smallest ovals, so I decided on spiders.

I loved doing them. They took about 10 seconds and added a lot to the plate of cookies.

And my other favorites were equally easy. Candy corn!

What? You say these aren’t ovals? Well, you would be right. But all I did was cut a sliver off of each side of the oval (at an angle) to make cone shapes. I loved that it worked, because now I can make any size of candy corn. The smallest were almost the same size as real candy corn. Cute.

Here’s a platter of the ovals:

Fun stuff.

I have a handful of sets of oval cookie cutters to give away. I’m probably not going to get them to the winners by Halloween, but the good news is that the uses for oval cutters is ENDLESS.  You can use them all year long, and then when next Halloween gets here (in the approximately 2 seconds that will take), you’ll have them to make all the pumpkins, candy corns, spiders, or monster faces you want.

Comment on this post by Wednesday, October 26, midnight, and you’ll be entered to win a set of your own. I’ll choose 5 winners using Random.org. Please enter only once.

Thanks for reading! Good luck this week getting all of your Halloween preparations together. I have 4 little costumes to figure out this week. Do you have a lot to do before Halloween?

Thinking Inside the Box *GIVEAWAY CLOSED”

10 Oct

I’ve been talking a lot about my desire to learn to think outside the box a little more. I am always completely blown away by Callye (Sweet SugarBelle) and her ability to make anything out of nothing. In fact, I really need her to be my buyer because I’ll pass right over certain products (like the Wilton Fangs cookie cutter, for example) and then she’ll do something totally crazy awesome with it.

So I’m trying to learn. And after meeting Callye last week, and learning some of her methods for thinking outside the box, I came home totally stoked to try some new things.

I love the rectangle set of cookie cutters.

I actually resisted liking them for quite some time. Because really, you can do without them in a pinch. You can use a ruler and a pizza cutter and get all the rectangles you could ever want. But once I bought this Fox Run Set, I wondered why it took me so long to get them! They have come in handy for so many things, and are so infinitely easier to use than a ruler and pizza cutter.

I have been wanting to feature them for a while, but didn’t really know what to do with them.

Well, I came home from Cookie Camp all fired up to be creative. I knew I wanted more Halloween cookies on the blog. I knew I wanted to feature the rectangle set. So I decided to think outside the box by thinking inside the box. Get it? Inside? The box… because it’s a rectangle….

Yeah.

So the first cookies I came up with were these guys:

I’m quite sure Frankenstein has been done on a rectangle before, since his head is a giant rectangle and all. But I was proud of myself for thinking of the other ones! :D

Then I thought just some spider webs would be cute and simple.

Easy, simple.  Anyone can do it. Outline, flood, let dry, then add a spider web and spider. Easy peasy.

Then I got crazy ambitious. I had just seen the most adorable cookie done by Haniela, that was just a silhouette of a child blowing a dandelion. And then I saw a Halloween card that had the silhouettes of trick-or-treaters. I figured it was a sign, so I tried it.

I think it has potential! It isn’t perfect, but it’s kind of a cool effect. I want to try it again soon.

So then I got off my ambitious kick and went back to simple and less creative.

I don’t have a Kopycake (obviously! Ha ha), and I really didn’t feel like spending a ton of time getting the font just right, so I didn’t. I just looked at a picture of fun-size Hershey bars online and went for it. These are pretty small– about the actual size of a fun-size candy bar. So I kept them super simple. Although it doesn’t look too impressive up close like this, when they were mixed into a platter of cookies, it totally worked. I’ll show you that in a minute.

The next two were thoughts along the same lines. I wanted a haunted house, but a rectangle is kind of limiting. So first I did another silhouette-type design:

And then I got an idea. How about just a haunted door?

Does it work? I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but it was worth a shot.

I recently got to see a Cookie Artisan (Maryann) platter of cookies in real life. They were amazing. I loved her sign, and so I got the idea to do a scary “KEEP OUT!” sign.

I tried to make the lettering look rough and scary. I piped it on and then scraped at the edges a little with my boo-boo stick. I think next time I could do it better. But not bad for a first shot.

This next one is a simple idea that wasn’t executed as well as I’d hoped, but again, it has potential. I think that’s what I’m learning about “thinking outside the box”– sometimes you have to try it a few times to make it work, but you know if you’re on the right track.

Next time I’ll do the background a different color. But it’s cute in its own way.

I really liked this next one. It was fun to do, super simple, and it turned out cute.

I know what you’re thinking. That this isn’t a true rectangle. Which is true. But all I did was trim the tiniest bits of the top left and bottom right corners off before baking so that the bag would have some dimension. Easy easy easy.

I thought it needed some depth, so I painted on some charcoal black petal dust in the corners where the bag would be folding inward.

Here’s how it looked afterward:

Just like the fun size candy bars earlier, I went super simple with the candy in the bag. You just want the overall look to be there.

So those are my thinking outside-yet-inside-the-box cookies.

And I tried some Glorious Treats tricks for photographing my cookies. You know, like actually putting them on a plate and stuff. :D I hope she’ll be proud of my attempts at taking some prettier photos.

Here’s one:

And another:

Look Glory! Props! :D I’ll get the hang of this yet.

I came away from this little exercise realizing the the possibilities for the Rectangle Set of cookie cutters is seriously endless. What would YOU do with them?

Comment on this post by Thursday October 13th at midnight (wherever you are!) and I’ll enter you to win a set all your own. Please enter only once. I’ll choose THREE winners using Random.org.

Another fun (similar, yet different) project coming up soon!

Off to Cookie Camp! But before I go….

27 Sep

I’m heading off to Cookie Camp! I’m going to Tennessee tomorrow to meet with some awesome cookie decorators and see if I can be a better one.  I’m very nervous and feel quite inadequate.  I’m trying to conquer my nervousness.  I’m not sure if there is internet available at Cookie Camp, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to give you updates, but I’ll be sure to catch you up when I get back.  I promise I’ll take lots of pictures! :)  In the meantime…

I told you when I came back after my summer hiatus that I wanted to fill the blog up with fall cookies… and so far I haven’t delivered. Until now!

One of my favorite new Wilton sets is this cute Witch-Themed Cookie Cutter Set. I love the boot, especially. I think it could pass for a Victorian boot, which I’ve tried to do before by hand cutting around a stencil. I was going to try one and show it to you, but my 3-year-old ate it. I’ll still try it sometime.

I wish I could say it was my 3-year-old that stuck her finger in that swirly purple boot.  It was me. I do that a lot. Meringue Powder Buttercream is really pretty sturdy, but if you nick it in the first couple of hours, it’ll leave a mark. As demonstrated.

The brooms made me chuckle.

I try not to look at examples of decorated cookies when I’m thinking up my own designs– I don’t want to be influenced by other cookies.  So I didn’t look at the example pics that came with these cutters before I started decorating. When I got to the brooms, I was  like “What in the heck kind of design is this?” I could NOT figure out why it had such a large ring-thingy between the handle and the main part of the broom. I did the best I could, and after I was done, I went and looked at the packaging.

Ohhhhhhhh…….   Right.

Hmm. I guess I’ll know for next time.

There’s also a cute witch’s hat.

(Insert apology for bad photography here).  I’m hoping the cookie ladies at cookie camp can help me with photography. I need it!

And lastly, the cauldron.

I was really lacking in the creativity department when I did these, and it shows. Sometimes cauldrons are uninspiring for me. The one on the right was a bad idea that seemed good at the time. I wondered if I made purple swirls in the black, and then sprinkled the whole thing with black disco dust, if the purple would be very subtle and look cool.

Not really. Just made it look blotchy. But that’s ok. I like to show you the failures as well as the successes because if I only showed you the successes, it would be a pretty short blog.  Ha ha… oh, and also because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes. Let’s just go with that one.

All together now…


It’s a fun set.

I’m going to give a set to three of you. Just comment on this blog and you’ll be entered. I’ll go ahead and run it till I’m back from Cookie Camp– comment by midnight Sunday October 2nd. I’ll use our friend Random.org to choose 3 of you at random to win. Please enter only once. Good luck!

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